Wandlebury Ringwork, Cambridgeshire: Evaluation Survey & Excavation, 1994-7

Change log

The ringwork at Wandlebury (Figs. 1-3) is a local nature conservation area, beauty spot and home of the Godolphin Arabian. It was first investigated archaeologically by Clark and Hartley in 1955-6 with the infamous and so-called chalk figures found and excavated by Lethbridge and Tebbutt in the same years. Forty years on, the initial season of a training excavation for the second year students from the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, was undertaken at Wandlebury over two weeks in June in the years 1994-7, with additional geophysical survey in 1998. Over the past two decades, prehistoric landscape archaeological projects have repeatedly demonstrated that monuments rarely exist in isolation but were integrally associated with extensively modified and utilised landscapes.. These landscapes contained field systems, shifting and long term settlements (often elusive), industrial and/or processing areas, ceremonial routeways, burial monuments and cemeteries and ancillary/satellite structures. Consequently a similar approach to investigating the landscape outside the scheduled ringwork at Wandlebury using non-destructive survey and sample excavation techniques was proposed, albeit on a much smaller scale of works, and has provided exceptional new data on the occupation of the hill-top and its immediate surroundings. The students' training was to include exposure to and practice of all aspects of archaeological fieldwork which would normally be employed in any archaeological investigation. The area initially chosen for this work lay outside the bounds of the scheduled monument area on the hill-top to the east of the extant rampart and ditch in Varley's Field and to the south of the rampart in the area of the putative chalk-cut figures and in Picnic Field past the playing field. These areas had been suspected to be of considerable archaeological importance - possibly important areas of extensive later prehistoric settlement, but these had not yet been investigated. Two seasons of work were spent outside the ringwork before applying and obtaining Scheduled Monument Consent to undertake an evaluation exercise within available parts of the interior of the monument in 1996 and 1997. The study area chosen for evaluation was situated between the tree line on the surviving line of the outer rampart and the garden wall bordering the current estate's garden in an arc from the southeastern to northern sectors of the ringwork interior. The main task here was to ascertain whether the settlement features discovered by Clark and Hartley in 1955-6 were discrete or much more extensive, and of what periods. In total, 99 test pits and 19 trenches were excavated, and over 5 hectares of land subjected to geophysical survey within the ringwork and its immediate environs.

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